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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Getting involved with your child's education

As a parent, you can make an enormous difference to your child's chances of success in school, at home and in their later life. Working in partnership with your child's school can help them to succeed.

Pupil reports and parents' consultation evenings

Pupil reports and parents' consultation evenings (also known as parent evenings) play an important part in making sure you are kept up to date with your child's progress.

Parents' consultation evenings are a chance for you to discuss how your children are doing in class and in school generally with their teachers, and to decide how best to work together to support your children's achievement in school.

Your child's latest school report should help you to identify issues you want to discuss. It will contain information on your child's progress and levels of achievement in the subjects they are studying, together with details of their attendance, behaviour and - where appropriate - special needs. From September 2008 all schools should be working towards making this information available online, as well as in existing ways like traditional reports and face-to-face contact.

However, these aren't the only ways to keep informed. Remember that talking to your children about school can benefit them. If there is anything you want to discuss with your child's teacher, most will be happy to arrange a time to do so.

Home-school agreements

Home-school agreements can form the basis of the partnership between you and your child's school. They help to make clear what you and your child's school can expect from each other, setting out:

  • the school's responsibilities, aims and values
  • parents' and carers' responsibilities in supporting the school
  • what the school expects of its pupils

Helping out at school

Some schools offer parents the opportunity to help out in the classroom, with after-school activities and with school events or trips.

Pupils can benefit from the support offered by an extra adult, and helping out can be a good way to find out more about what your child is doing at school.

Depending on what exactly you will be doing and how regularly you intend to help out, the school may ask for your permission to arrange a check on your police records.

Parent-teacher associations

Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) are groups made up of parents, teachers and sometimes others within the school community. They provide a range of opportunities for you to get involved in school life, many of which don't take up too much of your time.

Different PTAs will focus on different types of activity, but many organise:

  • fundraising for extra items or services to provide additional opportunities for pupils
  • social events which allow parents to get to know each other
  • meetings to inform parents about issues in education

Ask your child's teacher about getting involved in your local PTA. If your school doesn't have a PTA, the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations' website has advice on setting one up.

Parent Councils

Parent Councils enable you to meet other parents, discuss issues and submit ideas to your child's school. By participating you can have a say on decisions taken by the school and have an influence on your child's learning.

Parent Councils can be less formal and require a lesser commitment than being a member of the governing body, and all schools are encouraged to consider setting one up.

Governors and parent governor representatives

All schools have a governing body working with the headteacher and senior management team to ensure pupils get a good education. With around 350,000 governor places in England, governors are the largest volunteer force in the country.

Parent governor representatives (PGRs) are elected by parent governors to represent the views of parents to their local authority.

The roles of the governors and of PGRs are both important, and can be excellent ways to find out more about, and influence, education in your child's school or local area.

Making your views known

You can contact your child's school for an informal discussion about any aspect of their education.

Schools are expected to seek the views of parents as part of their self-evaluation process.

Schools are inspected by Ofsted at least every three years. The school will notify you when an inspection is coming up, and you will have the chance to pass on your views about your child's school to the inspectors.

If you want to make a complaint

Ofsted has powers to investigate some types of complaint from parents - though in most cases, you should raise any problems with the school first.

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